BUNBURY, William Henry (1750–1811), as "Geoffrey Gambado". An Academy for Grown Horsemen. London: for W. Dickinson, S. Hooper and Mess. Robinsons, 1787.

$ 800.00

BUNBURY, William Henry (1750–1811), as "Geoffrey Gambado". An Academy for Grown Horsemen, containing the Completest Instructions for Walking, Trotting, Cantering, Galloping, Stumbling, and Tumbling. Illustrated with copper plates, and adorned with a portait of the author. By Geoffrey Gambado, Esq; riding master, master of the horse, and Grand Equerry to the Doge of Venice. London: for W. Dickinson, S. Hooper and Mess. Robinsons, 1787.

4to., (12 4/8 x 9 inches). Engraved frontispiece portrait and 11 stipple-engraved plates by W. Dickinson after Bunbury. 19th-century half tan morocco, tan cloth, gilt, all edges gilt.

Provenance: with the contemporary ownership inscription of H. S. Young at the head of the title-page.

First edition of Bunbury's second book to depict the hilarious antics of inept and reckless horsemen, the first being Hints to Bad Horsemen, 1781. Bunbury "spent much of his time in London, where he and his wife enjoyed a convivial social life with friends drawn from the aristocracy and artistic and literary circles, including Garrick, Dr Johnson, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was godfather to his second son. As a result he was often in financial difficulties. His son later recorded: ‘My father had embarrassed his circumstances by the generosity of his nature and a carelessness about money which did not befit a younger brother’ (Memoir, 7). To augment his income he took the post of comptroller of army accounts, c.1775–1784, with an income of £750 per annum; he also served in the West Suffolk militia, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Drawings caricaturing military life were shown at the Royal Academy in 1779, with subsequent engravings by Thomas Watson and William Dickinson, such as Recruits (1780; BM 4766), while a series illustrating military costumes was published by Thomas Macklin in 1791.

"A growing fashion for fanciful and sentimental subjects, initiated by Wheatley and Morland, encouraged Bunbury to produce works in similar vein, sometimes in round or oval formats. He also extended his range with illustrations from the works of popular authors, including Sterne and Goldsmith. Sketches for The Arabian Nights were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1785, and issued in sepia and coloured stipple etchings. Of wider appeal were his depictions of the hilarious antics of inept and reckless horsemen. They include Hints to Bad Horsemen (1781; BM 5914–5917), and An Academy for Grown Horsemen (1787), which he wrote under the pseudonym Geoffrey Gambado esq (BM 7231–7242).

"The design which proved to be the most successful in Bunbury's lifetime was another humorous work, A Long Minuet as Danced at Bath, engraved by Dickinson in 1787 (BM 7229). In the unusual format of a strip, 210 cm long (84 inches), it mocks the attitudes of both graceful and ungainly couples dancing. Its renown led to the speedy production of a similar composition, The Propagation of a Lie (engraved by Dickinson; BM 7230), in which eighteen men, each headed with an exclamatory comment, react in individual fashion to the spreading of a malicious rumour. These innovative story-telling designs were imitated by other caricaturists, such as G. M. Woodward, and were precursors of the modern comic strip" (Christopher Reeve for DNB). Huth p. 52.